Industry wisdom that civil aerospace is continuing its super-boom while defense prospects waiver was clearly confirmed in the headlines from last month’s Paris Air Show (June 17 to 23). The 50th staging of the biennial event was dominated by yet more airliner orders, plus breakthroughs in new aircraft coming to market and significant deliveries.
Predictably, Airbus and Boeing dominated the deal-making and the European airframer pulled ahead of its competitor by logging a $14.2 billion order from Singapore Airlines, followed by a string of late deals that included 40 A320neos and 20 A321neos for Hong Kong Aviation Capital, 35 A350-1000s for United Airlines and 30 A321neos for Spirit Airlines. This took Airbus’s total to more than $70 billion, with Boeing logging $55 billion, and the projected final show tally to almost $170 billion.
Among regional airliner makers, Embraer topped the rankings, thanks largely to provisional business for its recently launched E-Jets E2 series. This took projected spending for its portfolio during show week to $18.7 billion.
ATR reported its most prosperous Paris Air Show ever, with contracts valued at more than $4.1 billion. The latest deal came on June 20, when Air Lease placed a $120 million order for five ATR 72-600s. Late on Wednesday, leasing group HGI Aircraft signed a $482 million contract for 20 ATR 72-600s that will go to Brazilian carrier Passaredo Linhas Aereas. This followed an earlier $2.1 billion deal with Nordic Aviation Capital, which is to take 91 ATR twin turboprops..
Bombardier also had a profitable time in the French capital, but largely on the business aircraft side, where it logged just over $1.8 billion in new sales (see box). It also logged orders for three CRJ1000s and four Q400s with Nigeria’s Arik Air, as well as three more Q400s to Horizon Air.
Air Transport Sector Heats Up
The 2013 Paris show had a superb prologue when Airbus flew the A350 XWB for the first time in Toulouse on June 14. The twinjet was airborne for just over four hours after extensive probing of the flight envelope at up to 25,000 feet, with the Pyrenees mountains beneath the wings. Airbus is now continuing a 2,500-hour flight-test program structured to lead to service entry with Qatar Airways in next year’s second half.
Not to be outdone, Boeing pulled something of a surprise in launching a new variant of its Dreamliner, the 787-10. This was spurred by commitments for 102 of the increased-range twinjets from five customers across Europe, Asia and North America: United Airlines, Air Lease, GE Capital Aviation Services, British Airways and Singapore Airlines.
With an mtow of 553,000 pounds and range of 7,000 nm, the stretched -10 will feature a pair of fuselage plugs that extend its length over the -9 by 18 feet for 15 percent more passenger capacity (40 more seats). According to Boeing, the new Dreamliner’s extended range will cover more than 90 percent of the world’s twin-aisle routes.
Another program launch came from Embraer, which confirmed plans to proceed with its second-generation E-Jet, now known as the E2. The Brazilian airframer’s decision was backed by firm orders, purchase rights, options and letters of intent totaling 350 airplanes from seven customers, including SkyWest of the U.S., International Lease Finance and five undisclosed operators from across Europe, Asia, South America and Africa.
First revealed more than a year-and-a-half ago, plans for the E-Jet upgrade center on exchanging the General Electric CF34 engine for Pratt & Whitney’s PW1000G geared turbofan. Other improvements include a new, higher-aspect-ratio wing, improved avionics, full fly-by-wire flight controls, a new interior and “enhanced connectivity” in the cabin.
Scheduled for entry into service (EIS) in the first half of 2018, the 97- to 114-passenger E190-E2 will serve as the baseline model and retain its current seating capacity. However, the second model scheduled for EIS–the E195-E2–will carry three more rows of four-abreast passenger seats than the current E195 holds, giving it a maximum high-density capacity of 144 passengers once it enters service in 2019. Finally, the smallest of the three models, the E175-E2, will enter service in 2020 and carry one more row of seats, raising its capacity range to 80 to 90 seats. Embraer has opted to exclude the 70-seat E170 from the project.
Scheduled for service introduction in 2018, the second-generation E-Jets will also benefit from a new flight-management system that Embraer plans to first integrate into the current-generation airplanes by 2015, said Affonso.
For Superjet International, the second day of the Paris show saw a milestone delivery when it handed over the first Sukhoi SSJ100 airliners to a Western operator. Mexican carrier Interjet has this honor and an aircraft in its colors graced the Le Bourget static display to mark the occasion, ahead of an impending transatlantic delivery flight before it enters service this month.
Bombardier had played down expectations for a pre-Paris first flight of its new CSeries narrowbody. In an interview on the eve of the show, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft president Mike Arcamone said that the company’s pilots and engineers were set to get the new narrowbody airborne before the end of June. The team has been subjecting the first flight-test vehicle to simulated flight conditions, as well as preparing a Global 5000 chase airplane to evaluate flight conditions on the day of the maiden takeoff.
Viking Air sold four Twin Otter Series 400s to Aerostar Leasing and another seven to Russia’s Vityaz Avia. Aerostar Leasing is buying the Twin Otters for customers to operate commercially in Asia and will take delivery of its four aircraft in 2015. The combined deals are worth approximately $70 million.
Rotorcraft Revved Up
Bell Helicopter came out with the surprise launch of a new “short, light single” (SLS) helicopter. It will be powered by a Turbomeca Arrius 2R turboshaft and is slated to fly next year.
The company also announced some improved technical specifications for its under-development 525 Relentless twin. These include: cruise speed of 155+ knots at max continuous power and max gross weight, range of 500+ nm and useful load of 7,400+ pounds. The max takeoff weight for the Relentless is 19,300+ pounds. The Bell 525 Relentless will also perform Cat-A takeoffs and landings to and from a helipad at maximum gross weight on a hot day.
Based on input from its customer advisory panel, Bell has updated a number of design features on the Relentless. Sponsons are being added to the aft fuselage to accommodate retractable wheeled landing gear and internally stowed flotation devices in a more weight-efficient way. The cross-sectional area of the tailboom has been reduced to optimize payload and airframe lateral drag in sideward flight. Cowls and fairings above the cabin roof have been modified to make maintenance easier, and the flight deck has been modified to improve situational awareness.
AgustaWestland’s all-electric ducted-fan Project Zero tiltrotor demonstrator made its international debut at Le Bourget. The aircraft on display is sized for a single pilot but has already been flight-tested autonomously for just over an hour. The company recorded a string of new helicopter sales, valued by AIN at roughly $430 million.
Helipartner Thailand placed an order with Eurocopter for 10 AS350B3e singles. The company is one of the southeast Asian country’s main offshore operators and it will take delivery of the latest version of the Ecureuil series between 2013 and 2015. It has started leasing rotorcraft to clients in other parts of Asia, such as Thailand.
Business Aviation Holds Its Own
Since the rise of the EBACE show in May, business aviation has become accustomed to a low profile at the Paris Air Show. But VistaJet didn’t get the memo and used the event as the stage to place a $1 billion order for up to 40 Bombardier Challenger 350s. Later in the show, an undisclosed customer ordered 12 Global 8000s in a deal valued at around $804 million.
Gulfstream gave a Le Bourget debut to the G650, which broke yet another speed record en route to the French capital, and announced the opening of a new retail outlet in London. For Pilatus, the Paris show was a chance to drum up interest in the PC-24 twinjet it launched at this year’s EBACE show.
But the bizav gem at Le Bourget this year came from Poland, where start-up company Flaris surprised showgoers with a prototype for its previously unannounced LAR 01 very light jet. The $1.5 million aircraft is targeted for certification in late 2015.